Last month we headed to San Diego for a long weekend. It was so nice to get away; we walked everywhere, ate some incredible food, toured the impressive Midway Aircraft Carrier Ship and hung out at Balboa Park. It was also a time to reconnect with family; my Dad lives a few hours away so we included a road trip to see him and his wife, Ana. You know how I love it when someone else cooks for me – well, Ana outdid herself. We feasted on Mexican food (tortilla soup, stuffed Poblano peppers and flan), sipped margaritas and enjoyed some good wine. Everyone always told me how delicious Ana’s tortilla soup was but we had yet to taste it. Well, I have to admit – it blows my recipe away. It was probably all the love and authenticity she put into it because I was in food heaven (maybe some of it was the gooey cheese at the bottom). The soup tasted rich and comforting, with chunks of avocado, semi-melted Oaxaca cheese (pronounced woe-hawka and similar to mozzarella) and fried tortilla strips at the bottom of the bowl. With every bite of soup, you could scoop up a bit of each and really experience the “layers of flavors” that I’m always talking about.
Not just good for your soul, this comfort food is also good for hangovers according to Dr. Ana. One of her secret ingredients is chipotle en adobo, an even hotter version of a jalapeño. Chipotle is a smoked ripe jalapeño and the en adobo is roughly a tomato vinegar sauce; the end result is a smoky, HOT, and earthy tasting chile in a tangy tomato sauce. The tortilla soup is simple to make; she sautés onions, fresh tomatoes and garlic until they are soft and then everything (including some chipotle en adobo and a bouillon cube) goes in the blender for a quick puree. Some chicken stock (Ana prefers stock over broth because it has a hearty, authentic taste) and the puree are added back to the pan, brought to a boil and it’s ready to serve. I love the goodies waiting for your spoon at the bottom.
Thanks to my Dad and Ana for sharing their table with me and David – it was nice to reconnect through food. From their table to yours, here is a family recipe for a delicious soup that is definitely comfort food. The last few posts have shared some of my Mexican favorites and it’s time to switch gears. Next week: Napa-inspired food.
Eat well and share the love!
Ana’s Baja-style Tortilla Soup
Recipe: Ana Hernandez-Hogate, September 2009
Serves: 4 foodies plus leftovers
Corn tortilla strips
1 cup Canola oil
6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips (about 1/8 inch wide)
3 medium tomatoes chopped into 1” cubes
1 medium Yellow onion chopped into 1” cubes
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon chopped chipotle en adobo (Herdez brand) – use more for hotter taste
5 cups chicken stock
1 low salt chicken bullion cube
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
8 ounces Oaxcaca cheese, cut into 1 inch thick strips
1 avocado cut into slices
Salt and pepper
Corn tortilla strips
In a pan, place canola oil (save 2 tablespoons for soup) and cook tortilla strips until light brown. Place on plate lined with paper towels to drain oil.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Add tomatoes, garlic, onions, and a good pinch of salt and pepper; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a blender and add the chipotle chile, bouillon cube and a half cup of chicken stock. Puree and add back into the sauce pan along with the remaining chicken stock.
Bring mixture to a boil then add the chopped cilantro. Reduce heat to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes to release flavors. Set aside and cool slightly.
To assemble, add a few tortilla strips in the bottom of the bowl along with 2 to 3 strips of cheese, 2 slices of avocado and a few cilantro leaves. Ladle soup into bowl and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro.